Progressing LGBT - inclusion
By Pippa Allsop
Firms that understand the commitment to progressing LGBT+ diversity and inclusion can attract the best talent, suggests Pippa Allsop
Despite the entrenched perception of the legal profession as being old-fashioned, it has nonetheless been very much at the forefront in terms of progressing and promoting LGBT+ rights and inclusionary practices in the UK for some years now.
Fourteen law firms, plus the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), were ranked in the Top 100 Employers list compiled from Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index 2020.
The Index indicates a positive direction of travel for LGBT+ people, reporting that they feel increasingly confident in seeking support from their employers in relation to bullying or harassment related to their sexual orientation.
Stonewall’s focus this year has been employer commitment to bi and trans inclusion: only half of trans respondents and bi respondents felt that their workplace culture was inclusive of them compared to 83 per cent of lesbian and gay respondents. Accordingly, they were also much less likely to feel comfortable in disclosing their sexuality at work.
Stonewall also confirmed that significant challenges remained for non-binary people, LGBTQ+ disabled people and LGBTQ+ people of colour – all of whom were less likely to feel confident in reporting homophobic, biphobic or transphobic harassment or bullying in their workplace to their employer.
Employers increasingly understand that it is imperative to do everything they can to ensure their employees are able to bring their authentic selves to work.
Feeling that you cannot do this undoubtedly impacts negatively on emotional wellbeing, particularly for those who work in extremely high-pressured professions such as the law.
In addition, keeping a check on yourself and what you feel able to disclose at work is an all-consuming exercise which impacts negatively on an individual’s capacity to perform at their highest level.
It is not just the key concerns regarding employee welfare, productivity and profitability levels which underpin the need to commit to LGBT+ diversity and inclusivity.
Employers are increasingly alive to the fact that failing to understand and progress such initiatives will, without question, negatively impact on recruitment of the best possible talent.
Such failures will also affect the ability to give the outward facing commitment required to attract clients expecting to see stakeholders sharing in and committing to their own values.
The Law Society recognises that there are significant challenges for some firms in being able to progress change in the same ways as others.
It acknowledges that not all firms have the resources and scale to be able to take the same measures as the big city firms who have been able to forge ahead, not just in terms of LGBT+ inclusivity initiatives but diversity and inclusion initiatives generally.
Stonewall identifies the best employers as being those who (among other things) recognise and encourage the power of the LGBT+ networks in providing support, education and visibility.
The Law Society mirrors this, and last year – alongside the SRA and Stonewall – supported a scheme which offered law firms the opportunity to receive free mentoring on developing their approaches to LGBT+ inclusivity.
In a more general sense, the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division demonstrates a continued commitment in furthering its overarching commitment to promoting inclusion in the legal profession and “reflecting the diversity of our society” – through engaging with the LGBT+ community, campaigning on behalf of LGBT+ solicitors and provision of peer support and help for LGBT+ solicitors.
Crucially though, it promotes and encourages smaller regional firms to connect with other local law firms in an effort to bolster local networks and attempt to counter the practical challenges they face.
They strive to “bring LGBT+ lawyers together to share best practice, and address current issues and challenges in a supportive environment”.
In previous years, our profession has demonstrated a commitment to the progression of LGBT+ diversity and inclusion.
There is, without question, a great deal still to be achieved but I am very proud to be part of a profession that is in itself proud of its place at the forefront of the commitment to positive change.
Pippa Allsop is an associate at Michelmores michelmores.com